Tuesday, July 31, 2012

When Silence is Acceptance

Believable Lies Part 1: Silence is Acceptance

by Lori Ann Potter on July 23, 2012

Once every eight weeks or so, our tribal community holds a meeting with the tribal council known as the Regular Bi-Monthly Membership Meeting.  From one meeting to the next, a lot of stuff can happen. In fact, there is such a vast amount of information presented in power-point presentations that, at times, absorbing it all is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose.

At the end of these meetings, a common question is offered to the members present, particularly whenever the tribal council requests feedback on a future decision they plan to make:

Are there any questions?  Remember folks…silence is acceptance.

For many years I remained silent at most tribal meetings, but my silence did not mean I accepted or agreed with everything I heard.  (I’ll explain why in a moment.) I listened, observed, and took pages of notes, and most of the time I refrained from adding my own concerns and opinions during the hour-long Q&A session at the end of every meeting.

I have a different perspective on silence.  I believe the declaration “silence is acceptance” is not only inaccurate; it’s a type of lie woven deep within the psyche of our community.  Any interpretation of someone’s intentions – absent of mutual understanding, time to research and process information, or freedom of communication within preset, respectful boundaries – is a deviation of authentic truth.  The term “silence is acceptance” is actually a subtle form of manipulation.  It’s an inherited mindset, ignorantly extended by those who follow the example of others who led in similar ways before them.

The truth is, silence can mean a lot of things and manifest in a variety of ways.  The existence of silence should never been interpreted as the absence of contradicting opinion.  Rather, silence can be either positive or negative, depending on the mindset of those remaining silent.   For this reason, we ought to be mindful to the messages relayed within our cones of meeting silence.

 When Silence is Negative

Silence is negative when it becomes the language of those who lack hope; particularly those who feel their voices are not deemed important enough to be considered or accepted.  Silence can also manifest as a preference by those who lack the skills or patience necessary to communicate peacefully under pressure.   But the type of silence most debilitating is when a person’s silence entraps him or her into believing there is nothing he or she can do to influence positive change.

Why Silence Happens

Negative silence is the outcome of a passive form of bullying.  It’s the wearying affect of being condescended to, dictated or talked down to rather than respected, valued and uplifted.  It’s a reaction to a type of torture – the steady, daily water-drip antagonizing the soul of a community through passive, arrogant expression in a leader’s actions and words:

You need me.  I’m the best leader for you.  There is no one else who can lead effectively as me.  You don’t understand what I understand.  You’re not as educated/popular/acceptable/respected enough to be influential.  I am here to make the decisions for you.  I know what’s best for you and you do not.

Negative silence is one response to controlling mindsets – when every community decision is confined within the strict parameters of a leader’s comfort zone, regardless of what might be best for the whole community.  It’s a response to empty “open door policies” veiled securely behind locked doors.  It’s the result of formalizing even the simplest interactions.  It’s the affect of decades of secrecy and bureaucracy, limiting and prohibiting the community’s access to and use of information.

How Silence is Revealed – Negative and Positive

Silence is often revealed through absence, such as a poor turnout to meetings and events.  It’s when people stop asking questions, quit volunteering or refrain from attempting to offer solutions to problems.  It’s when people lose faith in a bureaucratic system; when they feel unwelcome, disenfranchised or powerless to contribute anything of value.  It’s when priorities shift dramatically as people show up late, refuse to engage and decide to leave early, viewing a meeting or event gathering as much lower on their list of importance than it used to be.

Silence is also evident in people who refuse to vote.  It’s when people believe their vote makes no difference in a situation, although in reality, their absence really does become a type of vote.  It’s an abstention allowing the majority vote of the day to rule the outcome of a decision, regardless of a voter’s stand on the matter.  It’s the only time, in fact, when silence actually becomes a form of acceptance, whether it is intended or not.

Silence is positive when it is evidence of wisdom.  There is a sacredness in silence that is seldom recognized, such as when silence is held by those waiting for the right timing to say what needs to be said in a way it might be received most effectively, whether written, spoken or both.  Silence empties the mind of clutter, allowing it to absorb and fully process what has entered it.  Silence enables one to consider rather than simply react.

It’s also evident in those who choose the silence of absence as a catalyst for positive change, even when it’s only temporary.   Removing oneself from controlling, manipulative, abusive, gossip-laden, deceitful or oppressive groups and situations, for instance.  This can include relationships, family gatherings, meetings, online groups and even some work environments.  In these situations, a person’s ability to walk away and remain temporarily silent becomes a demonstration of his or her strength – the wisdom to understand one’s limits, and the awareness that circumstances do not dictate his or her value, abilities or limitations.

It’s your turn: In what ways do you believe silence can be positive or negative within a relationship, family or community?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Sports Should Not Define Your Child

If your child plays youth sports, how does he “define” himself?
If you were to ask him to define who he is, what would he say?
I’m a tennis player. I like Roger Federer. I hate school. And I won two matches last week!
I think it’s pretty normal for young kids to define themselves with what they do, what they like and don’t like.
But what happens when they get older? Will they still be defining themselves by what they do? Or will they start to see that their definition as a person is who they are, not what they do.

Your job is to help them see the difference between defining and describing.
We all tend to define ourselves by what we do or have or where we live as a way of helping others understand us. But actually what we are doing is giving a description of ourselves.  A description is when a person gives a visual picture or an account of something.
Defining ourselves actually goes much deeper. A definition explains the meaning or significance of a word and so when we define ourselves we are saying what gives us meaning or makes us significant.
And this is where we need to be sure that our kids are feeling that their significance and their meaning does not come from sports. From the home runs, the touchdowns, the newspaper clippings. Of course sports can be important and fun, and inspire dreams and create wonderful memories, but your child’s significance should not be based on it.
Describing ourelves focuses on external things; defining ourselves focuses on internal. Therefore, sports can describe your child, but it should not define him.

My son is entering his senior year in college, his final year of playing football. It’s not been an easy journey for him. The fight has been tough and the playing time rewards have been sparce. But he has not given up, and through it all he has grown into a strong, mature young man.
This fall, his little sister is transferring to his college for her sophomore year, to play volleyball and in one of their brother/sister talks, he told her, “You will learn that being an athlete should not define who you are.”
It was a new way of thinking to a girl who’d always prided herself on her athletic ability and status. But you know, my son has got it right.
If your athlete defines himself only by his athleticism, then he is basing his self-esteem on his performance. What happens when he has a bad game or season or doesn’t get to play much? What happens when he no longer plays sports?
Who will he be then?

If we start teaching our kids when they are young, that we love them for who they are, not what they do or how they perform, then we are nurturing in them a true, healthy personal definition. As we praise effort and character growth instead of performance, we build in them an understanding that allows them to define themselves by something deeper than their athletic or musical or artistic–or whatever it is they do–ability.

I am hoping that as my daughter goes off for her sophomore year of college and college volleyball, she will fully accept the difference between defining and describing herself. I’m praying she will understand that her worth (her definition) is not based on her athletic accomplishments. We have tried to instill that concept in her, but sometimes kids just have to learn it on their own before it really sinks in.
Have you been helping your child see the difference between who he is (definition) and what he does (description)? Have you been expressing your love and support based on who he is, not how he performs? Have you only been rewarding him for things he has achieved and not just because of the fact that you love him?
If you’ve been showing love to your child with no strings attached–apart from his performance–you are fostering in him a healthy self-definition that will lay the foundation for a healthy self-image for life.
If your child is defining himself by his sports abilities, it’s not too late for you and your child to learn together a new definition of who he is.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

5 Leadership Lesson from the Titanic

By Michael Patterson 

We recently commemorated the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. There are many businesses and leadership lessons we can learn from that fateful night of April 15, 1912.
The leader is always responsible. The maiden voyage of the Titanic was Capt. E.J. Smith’s retirement trip. His final duty was to pilot the grandest ship ever built into New York Harbor. However, Smith took many safety issues and precautions for granted that trip. He ignored multiple iceberg warnings from his crew and neighboring ships. He ignored safety concerns by pushing the ship to its limits the first time out in the attempt to reach New York two days ahead of schedule.
President Harry S. Truman displayed a sign on his desk reading: The Buck Stops Here. He knew the responsibility assumed in a leadership position. The leader is responsible for everything the organization does, or fails to do. In a disaster, the captain goes down with the ship.
Bigger does not mean better. The bigger the organization, the more difficult it is to steer, direct, and change. In large organizations, policies and procedures may sometimes circumvent common sense. Titanic was such a large ship that it took nearly a minute to steer away from the iceberg, and many believe that delay in changing course was the biggest factor in its sinking. As a result, the iceberg ripped a large gash in the ship’s hull.
Reevaluate policies and procedures. Titanic has been often accused of not having enough lifeboats aboard the ship, but that is somewhat misleading. According to regulations of the time, the requisite number of lifeboats was in direct proportion to the ship’s weight—to a point: The regulation stopped calculating at 10,000 tons, for a maximum of 16 lifeboats. Titanic, at more than 46,000 tons, carried 16 lifeboats.
After Titanic sank, the regulations changed to calculate the number of lifeboats according to the number of passengers. As a leader, you should routinely review and reevaluate the policies and procedures of your organization. Has there been a shift in company culture or focus that warrants a policy change? Just because things always worked a certain way does not mean it cannot be done more efficiently or successfully. Be proactive in looking for improvements instead of waiting for problems to occur.
Technology cannot replace personal intuition. Prior to Titanic’s voyage, Capt. Smith was quoted as saying: “I cannot imagine any condition which would cause a ship to founder. Modern shipbuilding has gone beyond that.”
Computers and other technology are an acceptable way of life. Modern technology enables us to perform our jobs more easily, more quickly, and more efficiently. However, people may rely too much on technology. Titanic’s new Marconi wireless telegraphy system may have been too cutting-edge to be effective. Neighboring ships’ crews were still relying on basic Morse code; they didn’t know how to receive the newer Marconi messages.
The best computer in your company cannot replace the life experiences of employees within the organization. Leaders have the responsibility to make difficult decisions all the time. Decisions are made based on an abundance of information, and modern technology makes obtaining that information quicker and easier than ever before. However, the final decision rests on how the leader interprets that information.
The importance of proper training. As the Titanic was sinking, crew members struggled with releasing the lifeboats. There was no proper training on how to use the lifeboats in the event of an emergency. Deployed lifeboats were improperly loaded with too many or too few passengers, and only one returned to attempt to recover more passengers.

Effective leaders understand the importance of a proper orientation and training program. Employees are a company's greatest asset and should be afforded opportunities to be properly trained and to develop their skills to be more productive and promotable. If we fail in preparing and developing our employees, we fail our customers and everyone else who depends on our business to succeed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Short Manifesto on Disconnecting

May I have your attention, please?
Not some small sliver of your already too-divided attention, but your full focus and attention.
You are too distracted. We are too distracted.
We aren’t paying enough attention to WHAT really matters, and what’s worse, we aren’t paying enough attention to WHO really matters.
Instead of living in the present moment, we have allowed our focus and attention to be spread too thinly and across too many things at once.
We pride ourselves on our ability to do many things at once, even though the results we produce across the whole range of activities are far less than they would be were we to have given ourselves over to one activity, one outcome. We pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task, as if it’s a positive attribute. It is anything but. And our results prove it.
We sit across the table from the most important people in our lives, and instead of being engaged with them for the short time that we have them, we stare into the small screen and divide our attention among people who aren’t even there, most of them strangers. LOST are the shared moments that make up intimate human relationships, lifelong friendships, and LOVE, as our screens demand that we pay attention to the trivial, the novel.
And we pay for giving the small screens our attention with lives that are less than they might be because our relationships are less than they might be.
We have allowed the tools that allow us to improve some aspects of the way communicate and connect with others to destroy our ability to communicate with the people that are closest to us, the people we care most about.
By being always connected, we are always truly disconnected.
In the future, the most successful of us will be those of us with the ability to disconnect from the small screens, and to give our full focus and attention instead to the people next to us and standing in front of us. The most successful of us in life will be those of us that are fully connected to the people we care about because we are fully disconnected from the small screens.
The most successful of us in business will be those of us who have the ability to give our full focused attention to the what’s truly important, without dividing it among the trivial and unimportant.
To truly connect, you must truly disconnect. To give something or someone your full attention means that you must completely ignore everything else, everyone else.
Disconnect. Connect.